“What happens when you die, Momma?” Clara once asked.
Her mother looked down at those big steel-grey eyes and paused. For a moment, the pain in her mother’s eyes was visible, perceptible even to someone so young.
“Well—,” her mother said before wiping her eyes. “People who pass away go to heaven.”
Clara continued to look into her mother’s eyes even as the predictable question came to her lips, “Heaven?”
What is heaven? Not the easiest concept to explain, especially when one’s husband had just been lowered into the cold hard ground. Questions were natural and to be expected, but this was a daunting task for a mother who could barely keep it together.
“Well—,” her mother said. “Paradise, a place where all your loved ones are waiting for you. Where you will wish for nothing as everything you desire will be there.”
* * * *
“Almost had it right,” Clara said in response to that faded memory.
Clara was perched at the edge of a balcony. This particular vantage point gave her a pristine view of the mortal realm below. Even from this distance, she could make out individual landmarks and people going about their lives.
This was her favourite hangout, enabling her to see how chaos still reigned on the mortal plain. People continued to be born, grow up, fight wars, and die. The only difference was advancements made in technology and medicine. Funny how those advances only made life more complex.
That curiosity and drive to understand the world is what interested Clara. She often wondered how life would have turned out if she were born in the twenty-first century. All of that knowledge available at her fingertips, but would she use it?
Everyone here had access to the knowledge of creation, but many remained blissfully ignorant. Would she do any better without her educational foundation? Or would she achieve her goal of committing the perfect crime?
“I thought you’d be here,” Gabriel said.
Clara did not turn around. Instead she continued observing the world. Wait! Were her eyes deceiving her? Clara could have sworn that she had just seen a shockwave emanating from North America’s Eastern seaboard.
“The easiest way to be found is to stay in one place,” Clara said with a smirk. “What brings you here Gabriel?”
The man was tall and built like a Greek god. There was not a single flaw to be found. His hair was always perfectly trimmed, his muscles developed and cut. Even his wings were flawless, white and without a single feather out of place.
Was he the angel Gabriel from scripture and lore? Clara did not know and had never asked. Curious how that particular question had not come to her until now.
“There’s been a violation,” Gabriel said flatly.
Clara raised an eyebrow. Any violations on the mortal plain meant that someone was not playing by the rules. Free will was an aspect respected by both sides. Violations meant that someone had not been given the opportunity to choose.
“Sounds serious,” Clara said in hopes of getting more information.
Gabriel chuckled before responding, “You look down all the time and yet you cannot see.”
“And miss out on this rare opportunity to learn from your wisdom?” Clara asked.
For a moment, there was silence and Clara’s discomfort grew. Had she managed to get under his skin? That would certainly be one for the record books.
Alas, Gabriel smirked before he broke the silence, which meant he had been playing her. Truly there was much to learn, even after death.
“A soul was torn away from the light of God,” Gabriel said.
Many choose to forfeit their souls for everlasting life on Earth. Their baptism of sorts, meant they turned their backs on the light of God. This bargain had been going on since time began.
“So what am I missing?” Clara asked.
Gabriel returned to that disconcerting silence from earlier. Given they were both immortal, there was no reason to hurry things along. Before impatience could set in, a flash of insight provided her with the answer.
“It was not voluntary?” Clara asked.
If their kind could banish anyone they wished at will, then that would change the balance. Balance guided all of their actions and a disruption meant a correction was due.
“What are the ramifications to our code of conduct?” Clara asked.
“Null and void,” Gabriel said. “We can wage war if we so choose.”
“I sense a but in your statement,” Clara said.
“It would forfeit the wager,” Gabriel said.
Clara knew very little about this wager. Many on the mortal realm had mused about a game of chance being played for supremacy over the mortals. Some aspects of these stories were likely true while others were a work of fiction. All Clara knew for certain was that no one talked about it.
“So the Council has decided to send an agent,” Gabriel said.
“Me,” Clara guessed. “Why me?” she asked.
“Can’t send one of the seven,” Gabriel said. “That would be tantamount to going nuclear,” he said.
“So why choose your most junior member?” Clara asked.
Silently, her mind was racing. The ability to taste life once again filled her with excitement. It would likely not be permanent, but nothing was in the mortal realms.
“You were mortal, you knew how to fight them,” Gabriel said. “Besides, we knew you’d be willing.”
“Can’t hide anything from you can I? And to think I once believed that nuns were unsurpassed at mind reading!” Clara exclaimed. “I’m in. So what do I do?”
“Fall,” Gabriel said.
“That’s it?” Clara asked.
“That’s it,” Gabriel replied.
“Anything I should know?” Clara asked.
“Keep your true nature concealed as much as possible,” Gabriel said. “Your powers will be limited. The degree varies from person to person.”
“So act and behave as though I were mortal and everything will work fine?” Clara asked.
“That would be a safe bet,” Gabriel said. “Ready?” he asked.
“Always,” Clara said.
Without hesitation, Clara looked down and leapt over the railing. At first she floated in mid-air while she freed her mind. On command, she dropped like a stone, reaching higher and higher speeds until she glowed in the atmosphere.
“What a rush,” Clara thought while tearing through the atmosphere like a speeding bullet.
The world before her grew in detail. While she did not have an idea about where she was headed, that did not bother her. Clara sensed that her drop was guided.
Smudges of grey against the terrain became cities, followed by streets, buildings, and finally, people. No one seemed to be aware of her descent even though she must have looked like a shooting star.
“Will a little girl’s wish come true if she wishes upon me?” Clara wondered with a giggle.
Clara made out her destination, a nondescript back alley nestled behind tall buildings. There would be no witnesses in that area once she made contact.
“Three…. Two… One…” Clara said.
Right on cue, her feet hit the ground and absorbed some shock. Unfortunately, that had not been enough, so the concrete beneath her deformed, cracked and became scorched from the heat.
She took a moment to adjust, stand up and straighten out her back. While no longer visible, a set of majestic wings could be seen folding in the shadows. Wings would certainly have drawn a few errant stares had they remained visible.
“Just as much as not wearing a stitch of clothing,” Clara said while eyeing her bare body. “At least I’m none the worse for wear.”
Gabriel should have mentioned that little detail before she fell to Earth. Then again, life on Earth was not without its challenges and this was bound to get a few laughs back home.
Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!